The unbelievers: Burnell Cotlon

2017 One Screen - Best Documentary
2017 Hatch Awards - Best Use of Branded Content (Silver)

In the wake of Katrina, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward was one of the few neighborhoods where relief came slowly. Less than 25% of its pre-Katrina population has returned and many houses have been abandoned or mowed down. As a result, the USDA officially listed the neighborhood as a “food desert”, defined as urban areas without access to affordable food in a five-mile radius.

Burnell Cotlon returned to his home neighborhood in 2007 and was dismayed by what he saw. He pleaded with major chain stores to open up in the Ward, but the ongoing reconstruction and slow repopulation kept them away.

Cotlon decided he’d open up his own shops and restore the community one small business at a time. He learned carpentry and electrical work through YouTube videos so that he could build all his operations on a budget. To date, he’s opened a grocery store, a market, a barbershop, and a laundromat all in an effort to centralize and revitalize pride for the Ward.

Director Henry Busby
Client Bai
Agency Tribeca Studios
Producer Amalia Bradstreet
Cinematographer Kelly Jeffrey
Editor Henry Busby